Resources versus Capabilities: Social Endowments in Egalitarian Theory

Political Studies, (2007, Vol. 55, No. 1, pp. 133-152)

Amsterdam Law School Research Paper No. 2016-53

General Subserie Research Paper No. 2016-08

21 Pages Posted: 3 Apr 2012 Last revised: 20 Oct 2016

Roland Pierik

University of Amsterdam

Ingrid Robeyns

Erasmus University Rotterdam (EUR)

Date Written: 2007

Abstract

Two of the most important theories in contemporary liberal egalitarianism are Ronald Dworkin’s equality of resources and Amartya Sen’s capability approach. Recently Dworkin has claimed that Sen’s capability approach does not provide a genuine alternative to equality of resources. In this article, we provide both an internal and an external critique of Dworkin’s claim. In the first part of the article we develop an internal critique by providing a detailed analysis of Dworkin’s claim. Andrew Williams has contested Dworkin’s claim, but he has failed to convince Dworkin of his objections.We analyze this debate, and offer an argument that,we hope, settles this dispute. In the second part of the article we argue that an analysis beyond the current parameters of the liberal-egalitarian debate points to three significant differences between Dworkin’s and Sen’s egalitarian theories: the degree to which they rely on an ideal-theoretical approach; their ability to judge social structures that are intertwined with people’s social endowments; and their endorsement of a well-defined criterion to demarcate morally relevant from morally irrelevant inequalities. This broader analysis not only reinforces our conclusion that Dworkin’s equality of resources and Sen’s capability approach are genuinely distinct, but it also suggests some more general insights that may be relevant for a better understanding of contemporary egalitarian thinking.

Keywords: Ronald Dworkin, Amartya Sen, equality of resources, capability approach, egalitarianism, Luck Egalitarianism

Suggested Citation

Pierik, Roland and Robeyns, Ingrid, Resources versus Capabilities: Social Endowments in Egalitarian Theory (2007). Political Studies, (2007, Vol. 55, No. 1, pp. 133-152); Amsterdam Law School Research Paper No. 2016-53; General Subserie Research Paper No. 2016-08. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2033287 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2033287

Roland Pierik (Contact Author)

University of Amsterdam ( email )

Oudemanhuispoort 4-6
Amsterdam, 1012 CN
Netherlands

HOME PAGE: http://www.rolandpierik.nl/theory

Ingrid Robeyns

Erasmus University Rotterdam (EUR) ( email )

Burgemeester Oudlaan 50
3000 DR Rotterdam, Zuid-Holland 3062PA
Netherlands

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